The Most Beautiful Woman in the Movies
Ghost favorite friendship
FOR YEARS I HAVE BEEN HAUNTED BY THE PHANTOM OF MY BEST FRIEND. She is a woman, and very much like an older sister to me. She is, in a sense, my ultimate peer. She is the person who never gives up on me, always has faith in me, and knows that I will pick myself back up again when I fall. She doesn’t coach me, but she holds me in her confidence, knowing that if she can get things right, then I will, too. We are, after all, peers.
This perpetual specter has never left me and has been an archetype in my imagination that has come to define my journey in life. She has played a part in how I look at myself, how my identity has been formed, and how I view other people, since there are few people who are as real to me (or unreal, as further on I will explain) as she is.
My friend has a face that has been constant and unchanging over the years, and I know its precise details. As it happens, she bears a strong resemblance to Molly Jensen, a character from Ghost who always really stood out to me because of this similarity. In fact, my friend and Molly resemble each other on multiple levels, the face being the least of these. Many of the ways in which Molly is presented echo the presence my imaginary friend has.
To me, my friend is Eve, the original, archetypal, unadulteraded Woman. She is the standard by which all femininity is measured. She is a wholesome and complete individual unto herself, and anyone who reminds me of her is more human in my eyes by association.
Since I cannot explain this character, and since she has not appeared in any movie, Molly is therefore the most beautiful woman in any film, ever. Is she more beautiful than my friend? No, but she out of all the cinematic figures reminds me most of her, so throughout much of this exposition I will speak of Molly as if she was the standard. So, then, I am more comfortable around women who remind me of Molly, similar to when a father has unique feelings for his son or daughter who reminds him of himself the most. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s there. What I can say is that women who remind me of her make me happy.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a feeling of attraction. After all, I do not have a crush on Molly Jensen. Neither do I have any romantic element with my best friend. I never will. She’s a constant in my life, and so is the nature of our friendship. It’s everything a friendship can be, but it will not be more than that. She has, to me, been the definition for friendship. That’s the archetype she falls under, and it’s a unique relationship I wouldn’t give up for the world.
A good marriage, though, should be with someone who is also a best friend. It’s clearly a best friend in a different way, though. There’s a slight difference, and it’s really difficult for me to imagine what it is. However, I imagine my hypothetical wife as looking very similar to Molly. How could I not? Molly is the standard for beauty, and even if it is not a beauty I am inherently romantically interested in, I would still want a romance to include elements similar to what I see in my best friend and Molly. I do not want her to be Molly, but I would love for us to have all the same qualities in our relationship plus one extra, that being intimacy. This wouldn’t make my best friend obsolete, though. I still want to live for my friends, and I want to be as real and as personal with them as possible, and I think that through friendship there is a form of support and happiness that can’t be found in romance.
For now, I have neither such a friendship nor a romance. I am unaware if I have met either person, yet, although there have been a couple of girls when I was a young boy who were good friends to me and I will always remember as the best friends I ever had. Even after I find someone and decide to marry with her, Molly will most likely still be the most beautiful woman in fiction. In fact, even if I marry an actress, I probably will not find her roles as attractive as Molly, because once I have experiences marriage, no fictional character could possibly be a standard for romantic interest, as I would already have a wife to set the standard for me. It would be wrong to look at fictional characters and find them beautiful in a romantic way, even if they looked exactly like my wife, because they would not be my wife. Molly, however, will forever be a reminder of my best friend, and a symbol of what femininity is beyond just attractive interest. She represents beauty in not just a spouse, but in people of all different relations. She can be my friend, my sister, my cousin, my mother, my daughter, my sister-in-law, my niece, and a symbol or what makes people everywhere special. She is the innocent, blameless spirit in every human being, no matter how flawed. She is, in essence, the image I attribute to the soul.
To explain why Molly reminds me so much of my best friend, I’m going to take a look at how she’s presented. For one, I find her pure. People have complicated emotions, thoughts, and decisions, yet we are all bound by one very simple reality: we are all human. We are all very much real people, and we are all special. Something about her really brings that out. She is depicted as plain and uncomplicated, straightforward in a way that I cannot be.
Setting her role in the story aside for now, there’s something about how she’s presented. She’s actually presented in two ways, the first being Demi Moore’s performance, and the second being Caissie Levy’s performance in the recent stage adaptation. I always preferred the original, which is why I use Demi Moore’s pictures here. Caissie’s never carried the same impression, even though the character she played had the exact same name and role in the story, because the character was presented differently in the 2012 play. It was, to me, looking at a completely different character. Caissie’s was just some character when Demi’s was, to me, not only a real person but also the subject of this ambitiously named entry. I appreciate the need for a difference, but I’m not a fan of Demi and I still think she found the perfect interpretation of Molly.
Part of the difference was how she was viewed as a woman. One of my favorite things about Molly is that she’s very androgynous. The movie forewent depicting her as a woman and really just made her one of two people feeling the pains of separation and loss. Before the loss, she was still characterized as just a person. She wasn’t “the girlfriend” or “the object of the man’s affection”, and she wasn’t some prize to be sought out for. Yes, she technically was those things, but for me, that’s never where the emphasis was. Perhaps this is my bias, because of how she reminds me so much of my friend, but the way that the narrative worked for me was that she was a dear friend of Sam Wheat who also happened to be the one person he would marry. That second part wasn’t glamorized, save for in a moment of passion at the beginning of the movie. Is that part really famous? Oh yes, it definitely is. During that part, though, she ceased to be Molly, or at least for me, and therefore doesn’t count. It was the “make-out scene” that was sort of a separate story in its own right and my mind sort of created a different character at that moment. I think that one of the reasons it never stood out to me that much was because when the characters decided to make out it wasn’t treated as a novelty, since in a romance movie kissing is usually a narrative point that emphasizes how people are coming together, whereas these two were already together. So basically, there was no glamor. Her presence was really an ordinary part of life, reminding me very much of how ordinary it is to be with siblings and cousins.
Molly also dressed in what I call “glorious 90’s fashion”, tied with the 50’s for my favorite era of personal style. Nostalgia certainly plays a piece in this, since it rings with the tone of a time that means everything to me, but she would so often dress so that there was really no stylistic difference between her and the men. Everyone dressed pretty similar, save for when Sam and Carl were either shirtless or in business clothes. Otherwise, she was dressed essentially how any man or boy would dress on a casual occasion, or at least in terms of the 90’s, and it didn’t stand out, because her presentation was fairly similar to woman in the 90’s as well. I always thought this was cool, because even as an adult, I haven’t strayed far from my boyhood prejudice that girls were stupid when they were “girly”. Tomboys and androgynous girls were the coolest. They were people I could hand out with and take seriously.
My attitude now is less childish, but the end result is still pretty similar. I have no accusations of girl's fashion of being stupid, since I have, after all, come to appreciate cultural norms and complex historic ideas of beauty. Yet, wearing dresses is like putting makeup on, and I ultimately find makeup ridiculous and prefer to see people as they really are. So, too, do I find other items of feminine fashion that supposedly emphasize femininity a distraction that makes people into cartoons instead of flesh and blood. The way I have developed, it really comes naturally with androgynous, down-to-earth fashion. Even dressing up like a nerd, with a full set of bowties, suspenders, and pocket protectors, as awesome as I find that to be, is ultimately only adopting a shallow label and identifying with it. I have a whole rant about people who identify with labels. Meanwhile, I'm always curious to see how beautiful someone is when they wear completely unromantic clothes, and forgo decoration or any gilding to their sexuality. In other words, I’m curious to see how a person’s beauty can show through then they are at their ugliest.
Finally, Molly’s face is crowned by the single most awesome haircut known to man. And woman. My best friend has this haircut, and it was the most obvious similarity that Molly had with her. Obviously, it’s not a hairstyle that people see much of, except in the 90’s, it was everywhere, particularly with boys. Due to various media I was exposed to, it was the haircut of the ultimate underdog, the kid I related to. It was the hair of the hair of Kevin from Home Alone, and it was the hair of Harry Potter, among many other examples. I always wanted a bowl cut, but unfortunately, I didn’t really have the face for it, so my hair looks more like the young John Conner’s, and even that was pretty similar to a bowl cut.
The point I’m trying to make here is that my imaginary friend is a strong reminder of my early childhood, and by extension life in the 90’s. Even though she became my friend after the 90’s – we befriended each other when my parents were going through with their divorce – it’s just another association I make. She’s always had a bowl cut just like the one Molly had, and Molly has the best variation of the bowl cut ever.
Short enough that it’s easy to take care of, but long enough to protect against sunburn in the summer and keep the head warm during winter, this hair is perfect in every way, unless you’re a marine. I say that the haircut is pretty useful, so on a practical side it gets a plus.
This fondness comes from a deeper philosophy I always had. When Caissie Levy played Molly, she had long hair, and it changed my way of perceiving the character almost immediately. It wasn’t just because she didn’t look like my best friend. I said I liked Demi’s presentation because it was plain and uncomplicated, and part of that was because of the hair. On one hand, it made her a product of the times, but on the other hand, my perception of her as a woman wasn’t based on superficial things. In the great “nature vs. Nurture Debate” in psychology, I never saw long hair and fashion as an inherently feminine trait. I never liked contrived gender differences and preferred a world where gender was never an issue of identity. It always made sense to eliminate gender differences that were mere presumptions and stop seeing people as so different, and especially never to treat them as an image created by society. A lot of the way femininity is characterized by culture in both the West and the East through images that have become so fundamental in our assumptions about the difference between the sexes that it transcends words. “Femininity” is constantly misused even by those who try to avoid products of cultural nurturing, and even I am not immune.
So between short hair and long hair, I see short hair as more “feminine”, so to speak. It’s actually not even that. I just see it as more human. Long hair is weird, and I honestly do not understand how it’s feminine other than by association. To me, it always made people look like aliens or Tolkien’s elves. Yes, that basically means that a ton of people are aliens, but I’m not backing down from that statement. It honestly looks like a goofy alien thing. In my science-fiction world, short hair is for humans, and when I can see someone who looks more human, then they are plainer, normal, and at the end of the day, just people.
Long hair, to me, has always been associated with sexuality when not associated with aliens and elves. Enter Tarzan. He’s a man, and those long locks make him look manly. He has a wild side to him, and those locks – those locks – just enhance his sexiness. When I open up book with advertisements for tuxedoes, the man who stands out is the one with shoulder-length hair and some stubble, because he’s probably some hunk of a surfer or some other crazy athlete. Either way, there’s a woman in the background who apparently thinks of him as a god. As nice as that is, I really don’t want to be defined by my sexuality. Remember, I always related with the underdogs and the simple, plain boys in children’s stories, from Harry Potter to Luke Skywalker. The long hair increases sexuality, and I have nothing against people who go with it, but it’s weird that half of the population is basically expected to be more sexual than the other half. That doesn’t seem right. It’s sexy, but not beautiful.
To understand how I see these things, look at how my brain operates and deals with data. I like to compartmentalize everything. Aesthetically, it separates the head and neck region, and the neck from the shoulders and the rest of the torso. There is an upward “narrative” in the aesthetics, where everything comes together to place clear emphasis on the face and then on the eyes, and in my science-fiction world it means someone is a human and not an alien and that I therefore an not alone in this universe. Otherwise, long hair is weird, like some sort of cosmic hiccup. It clouds the boundaries between the compartmentalized regions, and it has a downward narrative that combines the cranium with the sizes of the face, the neck, and the shoulders, perhaps even the chest and lower back, depending on how long the hair is and how it is arranged.
The sad thing, since long hair is so uncommon among women, I often find myself interested in them, whether on a romantic or on a friendship level, not because of how normal the hair should be but purely because it is different, and it becomes one of those quirks that I get interested in like girls who dress like real nerds. I have a giant rant about nerds, and it’s very similar to this one. I don’t like gaining interest in someone because of superficial things. Chances are, if someone has a different style that goes against the norm, it’s probably because they’re trying to be different instead of being their natural selves. That’s why Molly’s different, because I think she is just being herself wasn’t being influenced by her perception of what other women were like. I think that her presentation was plain and simple because she was plain and simple, and that’s ultimately what comes first.
There was a moment when Sam was restless, and she asked him what was wrong. "It seems like whenever something good happens in my life I'm just afraid I'm going to lose it."
And I am hit with strong, strong memories of good things in life that I have lost. The way Sam phrased that concern, the fear of loss is associated with her. Really, that's what she was to him. She wasn't a girlfriend or a focus of infatuation. She was something good in his life. That spoke to me on one the deepest, most fundamental levels. This is one of the reasons the character sticks with me, because of what she represents. She represents meaning in relationships, and good relationships, the ones I want to last.
Sam's concerns at this point are ones that I relate to in every sense. There are people who I would have liked to call family, but they slipped into memory. They became nothing more than another neuron connection within my brain. There are some people I can never return to no matter how hard I try, because I can't go back again when the person who ought to have had a significant place in my life is now on the opposite side of the grave. In light of those, I always regreted not loving those people enough, and I always wondered about just how much love I was withholding from all the other people I knew who were still alive. There was the first friendship I ever had, and I always regreted taking it for granted, for now it is but a memory, and only a hazy one at that, nothing but a glorified neuron connection. There are high school friendships, middle school friendships, and elementary school bonds that I have all had once upon a time, but now are as a fairy tale.
I can't stress enough how much I wish for good things in my life to come and stay for good. I want good things in my life so much. This transcends a desire for romance, a desire for marriage. I just want commitments, and I want some things to be permanent in my life that connect it to some ultimate narrative.
There are many things about Molly that remind me of good things in my life that I have lost. The good things in particular that come to mind are the biggest ones in my nostalgia arsenal, the phantoms from my past that I have never quite got over. When I die and go to heaven, I have my equivalents to Fantine and the Biship of Digne that I hope to greet me as I pass through the light.
I have a dream where I can be honest. It is more than just speaking truth and being open. It is a desire to be understood without fear, to be myself and share myself with friends who accept me as I am, and see me within the context of my entire life story. I want to be known and loved not just for who I am now as an adult, but for everything I was leading up to this point, for how I became an adult. I want to understand the life stories of my friends just as much, so as to btter understand why they are true and real to me. In the same way that our mothers, to some extent, will always see us as children, I wish to have family who I feel I have known for my entire life. I want to see them in terms of their origins, to understand how the adults I know are really just stages in the development of a baby born years ago. In honesty, I want there to be truth in my life and in the friendships I have. I want to be my true self - all of it - encompassing everything I have been and everything I ever will be.
Therefore, I am happy for Sam. I am so, so happy for Sam. He doesn't have a girlfriend, but rather he he has been blessed with "something good". Seeing their relationship, I get a glimmer of a vision of what sort of ultimate peace it is my innate disposition to want more than anything else. I want friendship, in particular the friendship that I had as a child that had a certain extra meaning, exactly because there was no grand philosophy to define what it was. Perhaps as a child we had things right. I want to be like a child again, and I want my life to be that simple. Work can be as complex as ever, and emotions can have their twists, but why shouldn't good things be plain?
They are, after all, an ultimate end.
How ironic it is that Sam is the one who leaves, that he is the "something good" and she is the one who suffers the pain of loss.
Even though she was a good thing, and she was presented in just the perfect manner that I saw her as an archetypal representation of such, the Sam's musings were ironic. He didn't lose her. She lost him. He was a good thing in her life.
Thus, the story of the film is twofold. At the onset, it may appear as a story about Sam and his struggle to help Molly from beyond death. Yet, at the same time, it's also about Molly coping with a loss and learning to believe. She is equally the story's main character. She is, after all, the one who is living. She's the one with story left to tell, and that's precious enough that it's worth saving.
There are moments in Ghost where Molly takes control of the narrative. It precedes the film, actually, because the trailer's tagline was "Do you believe in GHOST", phrased as a question and therefore is a theme that centers around someone's ability to answer it. Molly's the one who has to respond to that question. Therefore, it is Molly's job to take on much of the narrative, and there are points where the story is uniquely hers.
Certainly, the story could be completely dedicated to how Sam uses his superpowers to save the day. That is an interesting plot point, but it ignores the very significant reality of the film. He's dead. Molly attended his funeral. As traumatizing as it would be to witness your own funeral and know it was for real, imagine, for a moment, just how much more agonizing it would be to be the person standing above the ground who loved the man in the coffin dearly, dealing with the fact that he died and is never coming back.
The fact is, Sam was something good in Molly's life as well, and he was ripped away from her. he may have longed for her touch and the ability to meet her eyes again, but he didn't suffer her complete absence. She went through the stages of grief I know well. There's the shock, and then the numbness, and the feeling that life is never going to be the same. There's the burden of loss. I went from seeing her as a desirable archetype, a good thing, to relating with her. Suddenly, she felt the same pains I do, and it was completely real and true to life. I was engaged with her subtle journey through those troublesome emotions. The moment where she rolls a jar with an Indian-head penny Sam gave her off a staircase is real and more magical than any demonstration of ghost powers on the behalf of Sam. I live for the one-way conversation between her and Sam where she talks to the air as if he can hear her, not knowing he actually can.
The pain, the grief, the regret. That's all real. She's an authentic person. While it's something I relate to, it's uniquely her story. Yes, I see elements of myself in her, but she's unmistakably the Other. I can sympathize, but never truly feel her pain, yet I know it's there. And I marvel, and think to myself, at how real this person is. She shares so many elements of my humanity, and yet they are not a product of my perceptions. They are not created by my ability to understand her. They exists completely independent of myself, separated by a wall I will never be able to see past, and yet her humanity burns on, in spite of it never being able to be seen. She is as real as me without being me, and the more I think about that, the more I get to realizing that that's some kind of miracle.
See, we are all like Molly and Sam. One person is not another, and therefore can never truly "know" them. We live our entire lives on two different sides of a wall, never really seeing each other. Yet, there are signs of the other's existence. Through our senses, we can detect each other's corporal existence, and reason comes to dictate that since cogito ergo sum, the flesh of other bodies which seem to exhibit rational behavior must also be self-aware and like us.
To think, the sanctuary of our minds is an entire reality. Reality is so big that it is everything. Then the paradox, that everything exists not only once, but twice, because someone else has their own reality! Not only that, but it happens seven billion times, all over the globe. It is beyond comprehension, and yet it is true. Therefore, if reality is everything, than each person is everything, and life is sacred. I can be comfortable in this vast world of my mind, but there is a surreal awe about discovering another person and realizing "You too? I thought I was the only one!" The universe of my mind is a bubble of non-Euclidean space, never to touch with another cognitive universe, and yet somehow knowing that, in theory, another universe exists, it changes everything.
Have we ever stopped to think just how loving we ought to be to each other, and just how sacred life is? I sometimes do, and the resulting analogies blow me away. I stop in awe, and I chuckle at how ignorant I am most of the time. I am dimly aware that other people have thoughts and feelings independent of myself, but when it dawns me that they do, how extraordinary it is! How far beyond the imagination it is to fathom the seven billion stories that unfold on this planet every day. Then I get to thinking how small I am, and how important everyone else is. It is like everyone else is another "me", and yet they are not me. Aristotle thought otherwise, since he thought that all souls were the same substance and merely inhabited bodies with different nurture, but for that to be true, then all realities really only one, like a well-lesioned brain keeping secrets from itself, supporting multiple different consciousnesses all at once to fulfill a complex function. I don't see the universe that way, and it would be a shame to make everything the same reality. It's much grander to rejoice in the hyperdimensional paradox that even everything isn't everything. Everyone is "just like me" (except in a different body), while at the same time, they are distinctly and wholly not me!
When I put up my willing suspension of disbelief, I see Molly in this way, and therefore she becomes of infinite importance. I understand Sam's desire to spare her from his fate. It isn't just romance, but altruism, the ultimate love. When all the elements of her presentation remind me of an independent reality, of which I am normally only dimly aware, it is impossible not to love her.
She is someone I can fall in love with. She isn't a character, but a person. She isn't a science fiction concept or some pretty idea. All the fictional characters ever are only a reflection of abstract ideas, but a person isn't an abstract idea. A person isn't something that you find in a creative story, where an avatar for the plot is created by putting together personality traits and some relateable emotions. People are real. Molly, even though she's fictional, reminds me of that. In spite of all the fantasies out there, she's the person from everyday life I look at and see myself falling in love with over time. She's that ordinary - yet extraordinary - person who can become everything. That's what she means to me.
Perhaps this is another fantasy, but there's always the hope that I will meet someone who consistently reminds me as Molly does every day just how unreal she is to me, for indeed another person's reality can never be my own. To suggest that another person is real is to create an illusion of her in your mind. Love isn't necessarily about feeling someone's presence. She had sort of shortcoming when Sam died when she talked to the air, pretending he was beside her and not knowing he actually was. It was a talk with herself more than anything, and it reminds me of my own shortcomings and how C.S. Lewis crystallized my awareness of this flaw in human nature in his book A Grief Observed. We will create a figment of our imaginations out of our loved ones after they have passed away, yet it is not them. A person ceases to love another when they fall in love with their memory, not the person herself. The truth is, we do not live on in memory, and that is a lie as old as time. True life exists in spite of others' notions, not because of it. Hence, I fall in love with the idea of a person, my own invention. Molly did, too.
Or was it that she had some sort of faith? In spite of not perceiving him to be there, nor having any reason to believe that he was, what if there was some innate part of her that understood that his presence was about? Sensing his presence, and yet having no way of knowing for sure, she speaks out to him, saying what she thinks he should hear? At that point she could never know his response, but it wasn't the point. He wasn't real to her because he was dead, but really, he was never real to her in the first place. Any belief otherwise would have been a mirage within her own mind, the only thing real to her. The point was that she had the faith to alter his reality in spite of it being to her an impenetrable void of nonexistence.
Ghost isn't a love story, nor is it a comedy or a tragedy. The best label I can give is a "drama", but for me it is what it is. There's no label for it, but I find it a bit profound that it "is" anything. It has an identity, a soul to it. Real people got together to play fictional roles, and real people got together to direct, compose, and take photo shoots together.
At different times, it can be different things. Many will call it a romance, but beyond that, it's a story about friendship. Sam and Molly were many things, but above all they were good things - for each other. They were best friends, and being romantic partners didn't really change anything in that dynamic. It was simple love, a benevolent care for each other, just as a child I presumed that it should be. When Molly's life was at risk, Sam did all he could to save her not because she would have been his wife, but because she was a loved one, a friend, a part of his family and an integral piece of his life while he had it. He had no destiny, and he had nothing to gain from helping her, not even emotional fulfillment He was offered to go straight to Heaven when he died, which in theory would be the ultimate emotional fulfillment, but he turned it down, because he wanted for a reality greater than himself. He wanted for the one person who mattered in his life to have life of her own, and that always resonated with me.
It was a bittersweet ending, but one of my favorite movie endings of all time. The music was beautiful, the unique visual feel showcased my favorite example of 90's lighting, the blocking could not have been better, and Demi Moore knew how to cry. It was also romantic. Very romantic.
Which leaves me with some interesting thoughts about Molly, actually, and I return to the similar phantoms of my best friend and my wife. What is Molly to me? I find Ghost to be one of my favorite romances of all time, but I don't imagine myself in Sam's role. Nor do I imagine being there to be the man who takes his place, presuming there is one. Actually, I don't assume anything after the ending. That's why it's a favorite: it's such a definitive end, like the end of time itself, where the story completely and entirely resolves every concern I might have ever had by the time the screen dims out.
All I really know is that I love Molly, or at least as much as I can love a fictional character. It's some kind of wonderful, although whatever kind it is I am not entirely sure. It could be platonic, maybe romantic, but at the end of the day, good is good. I wish to live well with the people in my life, and discover the meaning behind the relationships I have. She's a constant reminder of that dazzling extra reality I'm looking for.
She isn't as real as a real person, but it's about what she represents, and what beauty truly means. People keep on trying to put conditions on what it is, but in actuality there's no such thing as a person who is any more beautiful than the other. Everyone is ultimately and equally human. I think of the real people that I meet in my everyday life, especially those who possess qualities that resonate me with elements of familiarity that betray their humanity, and I realize that they have souls equal in their cry of "I am!"
To be is to be beautiful.